I take a look at blogging: what it takes, why to do it, how it works, what kinds of content you can use, and a little commentary on how it’s worked for me at TradeshowGuyBlog.com.
When it comes to assembling a list of what it takes to be a tradeshow road warrior, there’s nothing like tripping around the web to see what other people say, right? I travel a handful of times a year for work, and maybe a time or two for pleasure, but the real road warriors know more than I. Let’s take a look:
Morag Barrett, founder and CEO of SkyeTeam chimes in on Entrepreneur with These Five Tips Will Turn You Into a True Road Warrior. For example, use TSA Precheck, take shoe bags and make sure you have backup power for your devices.
At Inc.com, Suzanne Lucas takes the flip perspective: 10 Tips to Survive Life with a Road Warrior. If you’re a spouse or partner who’s home with the kids, life can be difficult. She offers tips such as making use of technology to stay in touch, don’t save things until he gets home, make family a priority and more.
Jessica Pettitt offers Packing and Travel Tips to Become a True Road Warrior in a post on Speaker Magazine. She speaks staying in touch with family and friends, getting good exercise, and of course, packing!
On Salesforce.com, Laura Stack gives us The Way of the Productive Road Warrior: Advice for Newbie Business Travelers. She covers how to plan for travel, plan for lots of downtime, be loyal to your airline for more points, and more.
From the Wrike blog for brilliant teams, Emily Bonnie offers Road Warrior Productivity: Must-Have Tips and Tools. Tips include carrying extra business cards, tackling the busy-work (emails, expense reports, organizing your computer, etc.). Tools include having a good battery backup for devices, staying hydrated during long flights, and taking podcasts along.
Heading to Europe for business and pleasure? Here are some tips for saving $$ from Rebecca Lehman on Brad’s Deals: 20 Things I’ve Learned That Save Money While Traveling in Europe. Tips include do a lot of walking, take public transit, don’t tip at restaurants and eat at food cars, among others.
Whether you travel half the time, or just a few times a year, it does take some time and thought, and yes, some experience, to make the travel go smoothly.
In this First Day of Spring vlog, I discuss skiing in the rain and sun on the same weekend, listening to podcasts by Peter Shankman and Chris Ducker, and the logistics of shipping your tradeshow exhibit:
One Good Thing: the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Audio Podcast Version:
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When it comes to sales, you are in charge. Nothing happens in a business until a sale happens. Without the sale, nobody in the company is asked to build or provide anything to a client. Nobody is able to send out an invoice or bill. No money comes in, no bills get paid, no employees get paid. So until a sale happens, whether it’s on the street, in the store, online or at a tradeshow, nothing happens.
This was one of the first lessons I got when I moved away from talking into a microphone for a living to selling tradeshow exhibits. It puts a lot of pressure on ya! But it also opens doors to growth that you might not often recognize, or otherwise have in your life.
As a company owner at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, I’m responsible for many things – one of them is to bring in business: to make a sale. And frankly, it’s a competitive marketplace. There are a lot of good tradeshow companies, designers and fabricators out there. So, like any other company, we’ve tried any number of things: advertising in local and national publications, Google Adwords, sending out regular newsletters, soliciting referrals from current clients, blogging and other types of inbound marketing, social media outreach, walking the floor at tradeshows, gathering information on exhibitors to follow up later…and cold calling.
But, you say…Isn’t cold calling a good way to bug people? To interrupt them? To intrude upon their busy day? After all, in this online world, if people want to find what you’re selling, shouldn’t they be able to do it online? Certainly, but since being online in a crowded world isn’t perfect, businesses need to be able to reach potential buyers directly.
And that means cold calling.
Frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of cold calling for a number of reasons, but as my Sandler Sales trainer keeps telling me, “You don’t have to like it you just have to do it.” And with better tools and more effective questions, it becomes easier. And, as with any other selling method, it can bring in business.
In the past 30 days of cold calling I’ve uncovered several leads for potential projects. I’ve even found half a dozen people that told me “you should have called a couple of weeks ago!” as they just made a deal for a project.
Which tells me a number of things:
- Businesses are buying
- Every business is in a different situation and you might be exactly what they’re looking for
- If you use cold calling as part of your selling strategy, as in any part of your strategy, you’ll continue to uncover leads
So to bring this around full circle and relate it to tradeshow marketing, it’s worth doing. Your audience – your potential clients – are all in different situations. Some may have just purchased exactly what you’re offering. Others may not need your services for another year or more. But some will be in the perfect sweet spot where their needs match up with your product, service and capabilities.
Get the free report “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”
“Outside the box.” Should you be thinking about your tradeshow marketing using an outside-the-box approach?
Well, that depends. If you can come up with an unusual way to draw crowds, or do pre-show marketing that whets attendees’ appetites, I think you’ve got something going.
But if you’re looking for something outside the box when it comes to actual execution of all of the needed elements, you’re probably better off drawing inside the lines.
When it comes to greeting visitors with a smile, having a pertinent question for them, and responding to questions with accuracy and integrity, you’re on the right track.
When it comes to having a booth that meets all of your function needs, from attractive graphics and proper demo or sample areas to storage and meeting, you’re probably going to want to do it by-the-book.
When it comes to tracking lead generation, sales follow up and tracking ROI, keep it on the straight and narrow.
In other words, do all you need to do using tried-and-true activities designed to effectively execute the functions of exhibiting – stay inside the box – and you’ll be happier for it.
But when it comes to getting people’s attention through what might be considered outlandish or outside-the-box promotional methods, have at it.
Just make sure that once all of those people get to your booth, you have the systems and experience in place to benefit from them.
Competition on the tradeshow floor is fierce, and it’s not going to get any easier. You might say it’s more competitive than ever! Your fellow exhibitors are bringing more people to their booth, giving away more samples, doing more in-booth and doing better in the things you don’t see at the booth, such as pre-show marketing, social media and follow-up.
What are you doing to step up your tradeshow game?
Here are 6 ways to step up your tradeshow game to at least keep pace with fellow exhibitors.
- Bring Your “A” Game. You can characterize this a hundred ways, but it really means to step up your performance, do better than the last time, stay disciplined and focused so that almost nothing misses your gaze.
- Have a better sample for giveaway. This could mean anything from working with your promotional products associate to brainstorm a different giveaway to having a premium gift for those that respond to a pre-show marketing mailer.
- Catch eyeballs! Every booth is vying for eyeballs. What message is your exhibit saying? Whether it’s a 10×10 booth or a giant island, it still should communicate a clear and concise message and do it in a manner that catches eyeballs. Sometimes that’s graphics, sometimes it’s a compelling and bold statement or question.
- Give visitors something to do. There are discussions to be had regarding the differences between flashy colorful booths or having something interactive. Both have their valid points. But if you can create an interactive booth and give a visitor something to do that’s engaging, creative and keeps them around for at least five minutes, you’ll definitely be stepping up your tradeshow game beyond many of your competitors.
- Pay attention to visitors. It’s too easy to slip into ‘silent’ mode by pulling out your phone to check email, ready Facebook or text someone when crowds are light. But it’s at that moment when someone may come by, see that you’re engaged and keep walking.
- Put on a smile. The only thing more welcoming to someone than a smile is to greet them with their name. If you don’t know their name, at the very least give them a smile!
Want to know all 14 steps to take your tradeshow marketing to the next level? Download a free copy of my book here (opt-in to newsletter).
How many rules of tradeshow marketing are there really? Who knows? Pick a number!
In 2009 I wrote an e-book called “101 Rules of Tradeshow Marketing” which eventually was downloaded 5,000 or so times. A couple of years ago I revised it and put it back out there in the cloud for free.
As we’re doing a webinar-a-month this year, I wanted to revisit the concept of ‘rules of tradeshow marketing’ but didn’t feel that I could do 101 rules justice in a 45-minute webinar. Hence, the somewhat random choice of just 27 rules.
In any event, you should join us for the webinar. It’s coming up April 19th, 2016 at 9 am Pacific / 10 am Mountain / 11 am Central and noon Eastern. Sign up as usual at TradeshowGuyWebinars.com.
And yes, at the end I’ll make sure you get your own copy of the e-book that started it all: 101 Rules of Tradeshow Marketing.
It’s nice to have a couple of snapshots of your tradeshow booth to show off on Twitter or your Facebook page.
But there are more reasons for taking pictures – a lot of them – of your booth.
Let’s start with the design and the look. Take snapshots of the booth from several angles so you get a good feel of how it looks from different directions. Next, take shots of the booth’s neighbors. No need to go crazy, just a few quick photos to see who’s next to you.
Now, take some close-ups. Tradeshow booths are only pulled out of their crates a few times a year, and if you have photos of details it might save you a trip to the storage area to open the crate. Take close-up photos of graphics. In fact, pull out a tape measure and take photos of all of the graphics so you have ‘real-size’ documentation of the graphics. You might be surprised at the difference between the specified size and the actual size. Good information to have on hand. Depending on the number of graphics, this might take awhile.
Is there any part of the booth that is damaged, worn, torn? Take photos to show exactly what’s going on so that when the booth returns home you can be specific about repairs that may be needed.
In some cases, you may want to hire a professional photographer to take photos of your booth. The best time to do it is prior to the show opening, so there are few people on the floor. A professional portfolio of your booth may come in handy for a variety of reasons. You can release photos to the media, send them out on social media where they’ll stand out from the crowd, and you may find that the exhibit can be entered in a design contest (like our friends at SoYoung last year).
To really stick in someone’s mind, you must be meaningful to him or her.
From “Meaningful: The Story of Ideas that Fly” by Bernadette Jiwa:
“It’s easy to believe that ‘meaningful’ applies only to the businesses in what some people might call the ‘do-good’ sector of non-profits, sustainability and so on. But every one of us, from a software company to a cab driver, is in the meaning business. Without meaning, products and services are just commodities and nobody wants to be in the commodities business.”
So how does that apply to the tradeshow floor? What does it take to create enough meaning for a visitor that will stay with them long after the show is over?
It boils down to the people. Creating the product is comparatively easy. Getting attention is not all that hard. But sticking in someone’s mind means that the people you employ must understand what it is that is important to the visitors, and what affects them: what about your product or service means something to them?
It’s not an easy answer. And if you don’t know the moment you walk onto a tradeshow floor, you probably haven’t spent any time discussing it with your team prior to the show.
However, a tradeshow is a good opportunity to explore that meaning with your visitors. Think of it: there are thousands of visitors to the show. When they stop at your booth, take time to ask questions. By looking a customer in the eye, you have an opportunity that isn’t available when you’re just talking on the phone or asking people to fill out an online survey.
A tradeshow is an intimate encounter in the sense that you are talking to someone face to face. Yes, there are hundreds of conversations over the course of a three or four day show. As Bernadette put it in the book:
“Bricks-and-mortar businesses have the advantage of intimacy, online businesses, which must collect a ton of (often valuable) data to learn more about their customers and determine how to give them what they want….but the waiter sees the wrinkle nose, the barista remembers the regular and the doctor hears the stories that inputs from the keyboard can never fully communicate.”
Use that face-to-face opportunity to talk with people and really understand what they like and don’t like about your products and services. And make it formal to the extent that when you’re asking questions, you’re writing the answers down. Share that data with others in the company.
Ultimately, your job is to make people happy. If your clients find true meaning in the services and products you provide – enough to make them happy with your company – you’ve done your job.
Your tradeshow booth is, hopefully, a thing of beauty. You spent days, weeks, and maybe months working with a designer, then a graphic designer, then a marketing team, then a fabricator to create the perfect big booth.
Then you set it up at a tradeshow where you paid tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of bringing your crew and the booth to show it (along with your products or services, of course) to thousands of people.
And Joe the Attendee and Jill the Attendee walk by at a brisk clip, take a 4 or 5 second glance, or don’t even look up, and keep walking.
What happened? You think the booth is beautiful!
They didn’t give it a second glance.
There are many reasons why this might be.
The real challenge for you is this: how do people outside of your world see your exhibit?
When you’re considering what your booth is saying about you, consider as well what the attendee sees when they walk by. What does it mean to them? How do they react to what they see?
Look at it from their perspective. Is the messaging clear to people who have never heard of you? Does your brand ring clear and deliver itself without misunderstanding?
If your brand is strongly communicated and your messaging is clear enough for those who have never heard of you to easily understand it, your designers and fabricators have done their jobs.